Questions From Readers
What guidance do the Scriptures provide about child training when one parent is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the other is not?
Two key Scriptural principles provide guidance about child training for a Witness parent who has a non-Witness mate. One is: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) The other is: “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” (Ephesians 5:23) The latter applies not only to wives with Witness husbands but also to those with non-Witness mates. (1 Peter 3:1) How can a Witness parent balance these principles when teaching his or her children?
If the husband is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he is responsible for making both spiritual and physical provisions for his family. (1 Timothy 5:8) Although the unbelieving mother may spend more time with their children, the Witness father should teach his children by giving spiritual training at home and by taking them to Christian meetings, where they will benefit from moral instruction and wholesome association.
What if his unbelieving wife insists on taking their children to her place of worship or teaching them her beliefs? The law of the land may give her the right to do so. Whether the children are enticed into acts of worship at such places may depend much on the quality of the father’s spiritual teaching. As the children grow older, the Scriptural education by their father should help them to follow the truth of God’s Word. How happy the believing husband would be if his children were to take their stand for the truth!
If the mother is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she has to respect the headship principle while being concerned about her children’s eternal welfare. (1 Corinthians 11:3) In many cases, her unbelieving mate will not mind if his Witness wife gives moral and spiritual education to their children, and help toward that end is available at meetings of Jehovah’s people. The mother can help her unbelieving husband to see the benefits of the upbuilding education that their children receive through Jehovah’s organization. She can tactfully emphasize the merit of inculcating the Bible’s moral principles in their children, faced as they are with living in a morally deteriorating world.
However, the unbelieving husband might insist that his children practice his religion, taking them to his place of worship and giving them religious education according to his faith. Or a husband may be opposed to all religion and insist that his children receive no religious education. As the head of the family, he is the one primarily responsible for making the decision.*
While respecting her husband’s headship, as a dedicated Christian, the believing wife would bear in mind the attitude of the apostles Peter and John, who said: “As for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19, 20) Out of concern for the spiritual welfare of the children, a Witness mother will find opportunities to provide moral direction for them. She has a responsibility before Jehovah to teach others about what she knows to be true, and her children should be no exception. (Proverbs 1:8; Matthew 28:19, 20) How can the Witness mother deal with the dilemma?
Take for example the matter of belief in God. The Witness wife may not be able to have a formal Bible study with her children because of her husband’s restrictions. Should she for this reason shy away from telling her children anything about Jehovah? No. Her words and deeds would naturally reflect her belief in the Creator. Her children would no doubt have questions on the subject. She should feel free to exercise her freedom of religion by expressing her belief in the Creator, including to her children. Even if she may not be able to conduct a Bible study with the children or take them to meetings regularly, she can impart to them knowledge about Jehovah God.—Deuteronomy 6:7.
Concerning the relationship between a Witness and his or her unbelieving mate, the apostle Paul wrote: “The unbelieving husband is sanctified in relation to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the brother; otherwise, your children would really be unclean, but now they are holy.” (1 Corinthians 7:14) Jehovah views the marital relationship as holy because of the believing mate, and the children are considered holy in Jehovah’s eyes. The Witness wife should do her best to help her children to understand the truth, leaving the final outcome in Jehovah’s hands.
As the children grow older, they have to decide what stand they will take based on the information they have received from their parents. They may decide to act in accord with Jesus’ words: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37) They are also commanded: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1) Many youths have decided to ‘obey God as ruler’ rather than a non-Witness parent, despite suffering hardship from that parent. How rewarding it would be to the Witness parent to see the children decide to serve Jehovah in spite of opposition!
The wife’s legal right to free practice of religion includes her right to attend Christian meetings. In some cases, a husband has been unwilling to care for minor children at those times, so the loving mother was obliged to take them with her to the meetings.